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Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268

DOI 10.1007/s12010-009-8654-4

Bleach Enhancement of Mixed Wood Pulp

by Xylanase–Laccase Concoction Derived
Through Co-culture Strategy

Pallavi Dwivedi & V. Vivekanand & Nidhi Pareek &

Amit Sharma & Rajesh P. Singh

Received: 11 October 2008 / Accepted: 19 April 2009 /

Published online: 7 May 2009
# Humana Press 2009

Abstract Mixed enzyme preparation having both xylanase and laccase activity was evaluated
for its bleach enhancing ability of mixed wood pulp. The enzyme was produced through co-
cultivation of mutant Penicillium oxalicum SAUE-3.510 and Pleurotus ostreatus MTCC 1804
under solid-state fermentation. Bleaching of pulp with mixed enzyme had resulted into a
notable decrease in kappa number and increased brightness as compared to xylanase alone.
Analysis of bleaching conditions had denoted that 8 IU g−1 of mixed enzyme preparation
(xylanase/laccase, 22:1) had led into maximal removal of lignin from pulp when bleaching
was performed at 10% pulp consistency (55 °C, pH 9.0) for 3 h. An overall improvement of
21%, 8%, 3%, and 5% respectively in kappa number, brightness, yellowness, and viscosity of
pulp was achieved under derived bleaching conditions. Process of enzymatic bleaching was
further ascertained by analyzing the changes occurring in polysaccharide and lignin by HPLC
and FTIR. The UV absorption spectrum of the compounds released during enzymatic
treatment had denoted a characteristic peak at 280 nm, indicating the presence of lignin in
released coloring matter. The changes in fiber morphology following enzymatic delignifica-
tion were studied by scanning electron microscopy.

Keywords Biobleaching . Penicillium oxalicum . Co-cultivation . Xylanase . Laccase .

Pleurotus ostreatus

P. Dwivedi : V. Vivekanand : N. Pareek : A. Sharma : R. P. Singh (*)

Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee 247 667, India

Present Address:
P. Dwivedi
Department of Biotechnology, Sir Padampat Singhania University, Udaipur 313601, India

Present Address:
V. Vivekanand
Lundberg Laboratory, CMB-Molecular Biology, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg 40530, Sweden

Present Address:
A. Sharma
Division of Genetics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India
256 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268


The removal of lignin is essentially required during paper manufacturing [1]. Lignin is a
three dimensional polymer with a complex structure, present in all woody plants and other
lignocellulosic residues which are used as raw material for paper manufacturing. It provides
structural integrity to plant cell wall due to its linkages with cellulose and hemicellulose
residues [2, 3]. The brown color of pulp is due to the presence of lignin which has to be
removed during the process of paper-making for aesthetic reasons. Removal of this lignin
by biological means is considered as biobleaching and is economical and environment
friendly compared to conventional bleaching [4–6]. The xylanolytic and lignolytic enzyme
systems of different microbes have been explored by several researchers. Xylanases
hydrolyze xylan layer in the plant cell wall and affects the structural integrity and thus
facilitating the removal of lignin in subsequent bleaching stages. At the same time it also
attacks on the xylan which is reprecipitated on the surface of pulp fibers during chemical
pulping thus enhancing bleaching by exposing lignin for the action of bleaching chemicals
[7, 8]. Ligninases, unlike xylanases, directly and specifically attacks on lignin, oxidizes it,
and make it water soluble. Laccase which is a major enzyme of ligninolytic enzyme system,
attacking mainly the phenolic groups by concomitant reduction of oxygen to water through
intermediate formation of phenoxy radicals [9]. Thus both xylanases and laccases have
tremendous potential for bleaching of paper pulp. Bleach boosting of different kinds of
paper pulps with help of either xylanase or laccase alone have been attempted by various
groups. The application of xylanase for biobleaching of kraft pulp was evaluated by
different groups [10–14]. Medeiros et al. [15] had studied the performance of fungal xylan-
degrading enzyme preparations in ECF bleaching of eucalyptus pulp while Roncero et al.
[16] applied xylanase in TCF bleaching of wheat straw pulp. Similarly laccase preparations
had also been used for bleaching by various groups [17–20]. Simultaneous action of
xylanase and laccase may prove to be a promising strategy for achieving higher degree of
pulp bleaching. Due to action of xylanase, lignin is exposed which will be degraded and
removed simultaneously due to presence of laccases, therefore, leading into improved level
of delignification.
In the present work, mixed enzyme preparation consisting of xylanase and laccase was
evaluated for its ability to bleach mixed wood pulp. The enzyme preparation was developed
in our laboratory through co-cultivation of Penicillium oxalicum SAUE-3.510 and Pleurotus
ostreatus MTCC 1804 under solid-state fermentation.

Material and Methods

Paper Pulp

The mixed wood pulp (Eucalyptus/Poplar, 60:40) corresponding to kappa number 14.1
(with 35.5% ISO brightness and viscosity 10.1 cp) obtained through kraft pulping from
STAR Paper Mill, Saharanpur, (Uttar Pradesh), India. Pulp was washed, air dried, and
stored in air tight polythene bags for further studies.

Production of Enzymes

The mutant P. oxalicum SAUE-3.510, developed in our laboratory through mixed

mutagenesis, was used for xylanase production under solid-state fermentation condition
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 257

using bagasse and black gram husk (3:1) as solid substrate. P. ostreatus MTCC 1804, used
for laccase production was procured from Microbial Type Culture Collection Bank
(MTCC) at Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh, India. Mixed enzyme having
both xylanase and laccase activities was produced by co-cultivation of P. oxalicum SAUE-
3.510 and P. ostreatus using the similar solid support (bagasse and black gram husk, 3:1)
under solid-state fermentation. The co-culturing was performed for 8 days followed by
harvesting to obtain the mixed enzyme preparation.

Estimation of Xylanase

Xylanase was assayed by mixing the 500 μl of suitably diluted enzyme in 50 mM glycine–
NaOH buffer (pH 9.0) with 0.5 ml of xylan solution (1%) in a final volume of 1 ml and
incubating at 55 °C for 30 min. The reducing sugars released were measured by the
dinitrosalicyclic method [21]. One unit of enzyme corresponds to 1 μmol of xylose released
per minute under the assay conditions.

Estimation of Laccase

Laccase assay was performed using ABTS (2, 2′-azino-bis-(3-ethylbenz-thiazoline-6-

sulphonic acid)) as substrate. Reaction was carried out by taking 50 mM Glycine–NaOH
buffer at pH 9.0, enzyme extract and 1.0 mM of ABTS in a total volume of 1 ml. Reaction
was monitored at 420 nm using UV-Vis spectrophotometer Cary 100 Bio (Varian Australia)
at 25 °C [22].

Enzymatic Treatment of Pulp

Selection of Enzyme

The effect of enzyme (xylanase and laccase) on bleaching of mixed wood pulp was
evaluated by treating the pulp with two different enzymes viz. xylanase and xylanase–
laccase mixture (22:1) respectively (10 IU g−1of pulp, 55 °C, pH 9.0, 2 h). Enzymatic
treatment was followed by measurement of kappa number and formation of paper pads for
brightness measurement.

Derivation of Enzyme Dose

In order to find out the optimum dosage of mixed enzyme for achievement of maximum
lignin removal, the pulp was treated with varying dosages of enzyme mixture ranging from
0–20 IU g−1 of pulp for 2 h.

Derivation of Treatment Time

The pulp samples were treated with derived dosage of enzyme mixture (8 IU g−1 of pulp)
for varying time periods ranging from 0–5 h to obtain the suitable time for achieving
maximum bleaching effects.
All the experiments were performed in triplicates using 10 g of pulp, in polythene bags
at 55 °C, pH 9.0, and at 10% pulp consistency. After enzymatic treatment, pulp was washed
with distilled water and the filtrate was collected for analyses. The reducing sugar released
was measured by the dinitrosalicylic acid (DNS) [21], phenolic compounds generated were
258 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268

estimated by measuring the absorbance at λ 237 nm and release of hydrophobic compounds

were determined by measuring the absorbance at λ 465 nm [23, 24].

Color Removal from the Pulp

After enzyme treatment and washing, absorbance of collected filtrate was determined
spectrophotometrically from λ 200 nm to λ 400 nm to study the removal of lignin. The
color of effluent is due to presence of lignin [14].

Physical and Chemical Characterization of Pulp

Following enzymatic treatment, pulp was washed and handsheets were prepared by
standard test methods [25]. The effect of enzymatic treatment on the bleaching of pulp was
assessed by estimating the kappa number (T236), viscosity (T230), and brightness (ISO
standard 2469). Viscosity was determined by dissolving the pulp in cupriethylenediamine
(CED) solution and measuring the viscosity with an Ostwald viscometer. Brightness of a
handmade paper sheet was determined with an Elrepho instrument (Technobright ERIC-
950, USA).

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Laboratory sheets prepared with treated and untreated pulp samples were examined with
scanning electron microscope (SEM, LEO 435 VP, England) to analyze the fiber
morphology following enzymatic treatment. Since cellulose is an insulator, the samples
were coated with a gold film.

X-Ray Diffraction

Laboratory sheets were prepared according to standard test methods [25] and crystallinity
of these sheets was measured through X-ray diffraction (XRD ) using a diffractometer
(Bruker AXS D8 Adv, Germany) operated at 40 kV and 30 mA. The samples were scanned
at 1° min−1 from 2θ=5° to 50° [16].

Fourier-Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy

Lignin from treated and untreated pulp samples was extracted with methanol/tetrahydro-
furan (1:1, v/v) solution in a soxhlet extractor for 3 h. Under these conditions, lignin from
pulp samples was completely extracted [26]. These samples were embedded in KBr disk
and subjected for fourier-transformed infrared spectra ( FTIR ) with a Perkin Elmer-1600
series spectrometer at room temperature. The assignment of absorbance peaks were based
on published FTIR database for lignin [27].

High Performance Liquid Chromatography

The solubilization of lignin and carbohydrates in buffer (50 mM Glycine–NaOH, pH 9.0)

during enzymatic treatment was monitored by HPLC (Waters 1500 series, Ireland).
Carbohydrates were analyzed using a hydrocarbide column (4.6×250 mm) with RI detector
and eluted with acetonitrile/water (70:30) using an injection volume of 20 μl and a runtime
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 259

of 15 min. The peaks were analyzed by using xylooligomers as standard. The lignin
degradation products (monophenols) were analyzed using Novo Pak C18 column at 40 °C
using a mixture of acetonitrile–water–tetramethyl ammonium hydroxide-phosphoric acid
(20:80:1:1) as eluent, and a UV-detector at 240 nm [28]. Prior to HPLC analysis, effluent
samples were diluted 100 times with mobile phase and filtered through a 0.2 μm teflon
syringe filter to remove impurities [1].

Results and Discussion

Selection of Enzyme for Biobleaching

The present work had demonstrated that an improved level of delignification may be
achieved by using xylanase–laccase mixture as compared to xylanase alone. As compared
to xylanase, mixed enzyme preparation proved to more effective for decreasing the kappa
number and increasing the brightness. Higher decrease (≥5%) in kappa number was
obtained by mixed enzyme preparation (12.7±0.14) as compared to xylanase alone (13.4±
0.13). Similarly, brightness of the sheets when treated with mixed enzyme preparation was
higher (38.3±0.26 ISO) as compared to xylanase alone (37.0±0.31 ISO) (Fig. 1). These
observations denote that mixed enzyme preparation may be an effective alternative as
compared to xylanase alone for biobleaching. This combination was used for further
analysis. Synergistic action of xylanase and laccase that would have caused simultaneous
dissociation and degradation of lignin into smaller phenolic compounds may have effected
into better delignification of pulp. Moreover, laccase due to its size is generally not able to
penetrate into the fiber wall [29], but xylanase action leads to porous cell wall and lignin
therefore is exposed on surface for the action of laccase. The reaction products that are
released by the xylanase (xylooligomers and xylose) may quench the radicals generated in
the lignin structure by lignin modifying enzymes [9]. Thus, xylanase–laccase mixture
impacts into a better delignification of pulp.

20 50
Kappa no.
Brightness 45

Brightness (% ISO)

Kappa no.

10 25



0 0

Fig. 1 Effect of enzymatic treatments on pulp properties, C untreated, X xylanase treated, XL xylanase–
laccase mixture treated
260 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268

Derivation of Major Parameters for Enzymatic Biobleaching

The optimized dose of xylanase–laccase mixture for biobleaching of mixed wood pulp at
55 °C, pH 9.0 was found to 8 IU g−1 of pulp (Fig. 2a) which had led to a 12.8% decrease in
the kappa number (12.2±0.23). The maximum bleaching of mixed wood pulp was achieved
after 3 h treatment with mixed enzyme preparation (Fig. 2b) that had resulted in a 20.7%

2.0 20 1.0 200

Kappa No
1.8 465 nm 180
237 nm

Reducing sugars (mg g-1 of pulp)

1.6 Reducing Sugars 0.8 160
1.4 140
Kappa no.

1.2 0.6 120

237 nm

λ 465 nm
1.0 10 100

0.8 0.4 80

0.6 60
0.4 0.2 40

0.2 20

0.0 0 0.0 0
0 4 8 12 16 20
Enzyme dose (IU g-1 of pulp)

1.6 20 1.0 100

Kappa No
465 nm (b)
1.4 237 nm
Reducing Sugars (mg g-1 of pulp)

Reducing sugars 0.8 80

1.2 15

0.6 60
Kappa No
237 nm

λ 465 nm

0.8 10

0.4 40

0.4 5
0.2 20


0.0 0 0.0 0
0 1 2 3 4 5
Time (hr)

Fig. 2 Derivation of major parameters for enzymatic treatment for biobleaching; a enzyme dose, b treatment
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 261

decrease in kappa number (11.1±0.44). Higher enzyme dose or longer periods of enzyme
treatment did not result into any increase in the enzyme led bleaching effects (Fig. 2a, b).
After enzymatic treatment of pulp under above derived conditions, 21% reduction of
kappa number, 8% increase in brightness, and 5% increase in pulp viscosity was obtained
(Table 1). The release of phenolic compounds (λ 237 nm) and hydrophobic compounds (λ
465 nm) was also maximum along with an increase in release of reducing sugars at derived
bleaching conditions (Fig. 2a, b). The correlation between release of chromophores (λ
237 nm), hydrophobic compounds (λ 465 nm), and reduction in kappa number coupled to
the release of reducing sugars had suggested the dissociation of lignin and sugars from pulp
fibers. Pulp upon pretreatment had its xylan layer degraded due to xylanase action releasing
therefore the xylose and other reducing sugars. This led to the exposure of lignin for
subsequent action of laccase while after degradation resulted into the release of
chromophoric and phenolic compounds. Release of chromophores as well as hydrophobic
compounds was maximum at the derived bleaching conditions and had become constant
with increasing dose and reaction time. The release of reducing sugars, however, continued
but at comparatively lower level. The later phenomenon may be due to xylanase-mediated
hydrolysis of soluble xylooligosaccharides which were released due to initial depolymer-
ization of the xylan [10, 11, 14].

Color Removal from the Pulp

Following bleaching of pulp with different doses of mixed enzyme preparation, effluents
thus collected were scanned from λ 200–400 nm to detect the release of colored
compounds. The peak at 280 nm in the UV spectra indicates the presence of lignin in the
released color compounds and the color removal increased with the increase in enzyme
dose (Fig. 3).

Effect of Enzymatic Treatment on Lignocellulosic Components

Analysis of Fiber Morphology

The fiber morphology was analyzed following enzymatic treatment of the pulp. The
enzymatic treatment introduced greater porosity, swelling, separation, and peeling of pulp
fibers (Fig. 4b) as compared to the smoother surface of untreated pulp (Fig. 4a). The
swelling, separation, and loss in compactness in the pulp fibers render them more
susceptible for chemical bleaching as it facilitates the entry of various chemicals during
subsequent bleaching stages. This peeling appearance also coincides with the observations
as obtained by Pham et al. [8], Torres et al. [30], and Roncero et al. [31, 32] of eucalyptus
pulp bleached with xylanase. Garg et al. [10] had also observed the changes in the exterior
of the fibers of birch kraft pulp treated with xylanase preparations that were free of cellulase

Table 1 Effect of treatment with xylanase–laccase mixture on properties of mixed wood pulp.

S. No. Properties Initial Final % improvement

1 Kappa number 14.0±0.17 11.1±0.44 21.0

2 Brightness 35.5±0.34 38.3±0.26 8.0
3 Yellowness 30.3±0.14 29.3±0.14 3.0
4 Viscosity 10.1±0.08 10.6±0.08 5.0
262 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268

Fig. 3 UV spectra of colored

compounds released during en-
zymatic treatment at different
enzyme doses (1, untreated,
2, 4 IU g−1, 3, 8 IU g−1, 4, 12 IU
g−1, 5, 16 IU g−1 of oven dried

activity. It is well known that during pulping process short xylan chains precipitated on the
surface of pulp fibers act as physical barrier for the entry of bleaching chemicals in
subsequent bleaching stages. The separation of this xylan leads to formation of grooves or
cracks enabling the bleaching agents to penetrate more readily.

Fig. 4 Scanning electron microscopy of the pulp a before and b after treatment with mixed enzyme
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 263

Analysis of Pulp Crystallinity

Analysis of pulp crystallinity is a significant criterion that is utilized to assess the pulp
delignification during bleaching. As a result of enzymatic action, hemicellulose and lignin
materials are removed, leaving high proportions of amorphous cellulose which leads to
decreased pulp crystallinity [32]. The X-ray diffraction analysis of xylanase–laccase and
xylanase-treated mixed wood pulp are shown in Fig. 5. The degree of pulp crystallinity was
determined on the basis of peak width at half maximum. As shown in diffractograms it is
maximum for xylanase–laccase-treated (XL) pulp, hence it is least crystalline.

Characterization of Lignin After Enzyme Treatment

Lignin is a three dimensional, highly branched polymer with a wide variety of functional
groups providing active centers for chemical and biological interactions. Understanding the
biodegradation of lignin, have significant implications in order to develop an environment
friendly process for selective removal of lignin during paper-making. Much interest has
focused on functional group analysis by various research groups [26, 33, 34]. The main
functional groups in lignin are hydroxyl, methoxy, carbonyl, and carboxylic groups. The
production of these groups depends on genetic origin and isolation process applied.
FTIR spectra xylanase–laccase and xylanase (X) treated pulp samples, showed
characteristic and pronounced changes for the sample treated with mixed enzyme
preparation (Fig. 6a–c). Peak at 3,400 cm−1 appeared due to presence of OH groups [35]
in lignin in XL- and X-treated samples. However, intensity and peak variation was higher in
XL-treated sample (Fig. 6c). Similar observations were recorded at peak intensity at
2,900 cm−1. The peak intensity at this wave number is attributed to presence of methyl/
methylene (–CH) groups. A new, strong peak at 1,720 cm−1 in XL-treated pulp samples
appeared while its intensity was lower in X and it was absent in the untreated pulp sample.
This peak is attributed due to release of free carbonyl groups (C=O) due to action of
enzyme on lignin’s aromatic ring [27]. In untreated samples these carbonyl groups remain
associated with aromatic rings, hence resulted into no absorption. Besides this, more peaks
generated at 1,600–1,400 cm−1 and 1,300–1,200 cm−1 wave numbers due to changes in the
ratio of syringyl and guaiacol groups.

Fig. 5 X-ray diffraction analysis

of (1) untreated, (2) xylanase-
treated, and (3) xylanase–laccase
treated pulp
264 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268

Fig. 6 FTIR spectra of lignin extracted from a untreated, b xylanase-treated, and c xylanase–laccase treated
pulp samples

Analysis of Solubilized Products After Enzyme Treatment

The release of xylooligomers and monophenols due to degradation of xylan and lignin
during enzymatic bleaching was analyzed by HPLC. Mixed enzyme preparation was
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 265

more effective in degrading lignin as compared to the degradation when single

enzyme preparation was used. Analysis had indicated that xylose was the major
degradation product (Fig. 7a–d) and similarly catechol, syringaldazine, and other
phenolic products were detected (Fig. 8a–d) under the above-defined treatment
conditions. Xylanase attacks on xylan layer and degrade it into xylooligomers and
eventually into monomeric sugar xylose. The disorganization of xylan layer facilitates the
laccase to disorient the lignin layer and degrade the same into simpler constituents thus
leading to bleaching of pulp for paper manufacture. Niku-Paavola et al. [9] had also
studied the enzymatic delignification on pine kraft pulp and obtained the similar results.

800.00 a

7.687 xylose



2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 10.00 12.00 14.00 16.00 18.00 20.00







2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 10.00 12.00 14.00 16.00 18.00 20.00







2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 10.00 12.00 14.00 16.00 18.00 20.00





2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 10.00 12.00 14.00 16.00 18.00 20.00

Fig. 7 High performance liquid chromatography of xylooligomers released from a untreated, b xylanase-
treated, c laccase-treated, and d xylanase–laccase treated samples
266 Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268




0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00






0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 2.00 2.20 2.40 2.60 2.80 3.00 3.20 3.40 3.60 3.80





0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 2.00 2.20 2.40 2.60 2.80 3.00 3.20 3.40 3.60 3.80 4.00







0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60 1.80 2.00 2.20 2.40 2.60 2.80 3.00 3.20 3.40 3.60 3.80 4.00 4.20

Fig. 8 High performance liquid chromatography of lignin degradation products a untreated, b xylanase-
treated, c laccase-treated, and d xylanase–laccase-treated samples

Concluding Remarks

A mixed enzyme preparation developed through co-cultivation of mutant P. oxalicum

SAUE-3.510 and P. ostreatus under solid-state fermentation proclaims its efficacy for
biobleaching of mixed wood pulp as compared to xylanase from P. oxalicum SAUE-3.510.
A synergistic action of xylanase and laccase had resulted into improved quality of pulp due
to effective delignification that leads to new insights for ecofriendly bleaching technology
by employing mixed enzyme preparation.
Appl Biochem Biotechnol (2010) 160:255–268 267

Acknowledgements Senior research fellowship awarded by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research,
New Delhi, India to first author and national doctoral fellowship to second author by All India Council of
Technical Education, New Delhi, India are gratefully acknowledged.


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